The Falkland Islands are a British Antarctic Territory,
sitting off the east coast of Argentina
in the South Atlantic Ocean. They receive a
cold, maritime climate with cool temperatures, low but frequent rainfall and
lots of wind. Conditions are very indecisive, changing suddenly and
unpredictably. Surrounded by water, the dominant element in the Falkland Islands’
climate is a cold Antarctic Current in the South Atlantic.
While there is only a small amount of seasonal variation in temperature,
summers are warmer than winters. As they sit in the southern hemisphere, the
islands’ seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere; January
and February are the peak summer months while July and August are the cold
heart of winter.
The islands are mostly low-lying with a craggy shore-line,
but some mountains do stretch along the east and north coasts of northern West Falkland
and from east to west in the middle of East Falkland.
As such there is some regional difference in weather. Cooler temperatures are
to be expected at higher altitudes; temperatures quoted below relate to areas
around sea level. Contrary to the westerly direction of the prevailing winds,
the eastern island is slightly wetter than the western island. Conditions are
similar to those found in the Shetland Islands and the Hebrides.
Many cite the Falkland Islands’ climate as close to that of the UK.
Similarities between the two regions’ climates are drawn because the UK sits at 52° north, while
the Falkland Islands sit 52° south. However, while
the UK is treated to the
warm Gulf Stream, the Falkland Islands are at
the mercy of the cold Antarctic Current.
Precipitation is actually quite low, falling evenly
throughout the year, though it falls frequently in prolonged, light showers. It
rains on around 250 days per year. Snow is actually possible at any time of
year, though even in winter it rarely settles for long. Constant precipitation
has lead to many boggy areas and small lakes.
December till March, is cool, similar to a cold Mediterranean winter, though
with less rain. The average high temperature in Stanley is 12°C in
December and March, rising to a pathetic peak of 13°C in January and February.
Night times remain cold, at an average low of 6°C in the warmest months. There
is always the possibility that an Antarctic wind will gust up from the south
and force temperatures down. If wind comes down from the continent,
temperatures can creep up as high as 19°C. Even southern regions of Argentina are
warm at this time of year; El Calafete is adjacent to the islands and sees an
average high of 16°C and to the north Comodoro Rivadavia is hot at 26°C. However,
the prevailing winds are usually from the west. These are cool, strong and
humid year round, but strongest in the summer, making it the most changeable
season. Gale force winds are common. Rainfall is highest at this time of year,
peaking in January, but the increase is very small. Summer is less overcast
than the rest of the year, coming out for around six hours each day. While this
is not a staggering amount of sunshine, the clean, thin air means the UV index
is very high and strong sun block should be worn outside. The sea is at its
warmest around 9°C: not very tempting.
in April, is quite cold with lessening sunshine. The average high temperature
drops to 9°C and the average low 3°C. It can get below freezing and frosts can
occur from the beginning of the month. The sun stays out for around four hours
per day as clouds become more persistent. Rainfall remains low but frequent and
the wind is still quite strong.
from May till September, is cold and dismal. Rainfall levels drop slightly
lower but rain falls in shorter, heavier storms. The average high temperature
drops to 7°C in May then to 5°C from June till August, before getting back up
to 7°C in September. The average low of 1°C drops to 0°C in July and August. It
regularly falls below freezing, even in the day time. Sunshine reduces at the
beginning of the season, getting down to a miserly two hours per day in June,
but creeps back up again; September receives around five hours per day. Early
winter is pretty gloomy; clouds are a regular fixture. Wind is slightly weaker
which might be why it is so grey. The sea gets down to 5°C.
in October and November, is warmer but still decidedly cool. The average high
temperature creeps up to 9°C in October and 11°C in November. Night times
remain very cold and regularly get down to freezing. However, the sun comes out
for six hours per day which is as good as the Falkland
Islands’ summer. Rainfall increases very slightly and the winds
start to get a bit stronger.
Islands are not the most popular holiday destination. This is not
due to the abysmal weather, but to their inaccessibility. In fact there is a
great deal to see on the islands, the enjoyment of which is not reliant on
warmth and sun, but is in fact reliant on it being so constantly cool. The
islands are a pristine environment with unspoilt white beaches lapped by
crystal-clear waters. The absence of the levels of pollution seen in more
heavily developed areas, and the islands’ stable climate, means they are a
haven for delicate ecosystems and animal life. A walk along the beach will
bring you into close proximity with all manner of penguins, colonies of
elephant seals, the odd albatross and even the tail of a breaching whale just
out to sea. The Falkland Islands are often seen as the gateway to the
Antarctic, and Antarctic cruises often stop there first to demonstrate a medium
between mainland and Antarctica.
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